Hope That Rises Through Change . . . .

Change is rarely something I seek but have come to appreciate.  My husband and I, married for almost forty-eight years, have lived in the same house for more than thirty of those years. We’ve made many changes to the house over time, but the placement of the couch in the living room has not changed since the day we moved in. (Just to clarify, we did replace the couch–twenty years ago!)

Yet we have learned to appreciate change–largely through our kids.  We enjoyed them when they lived at home (for the most part), but celebrated when they became contributing members of society, married, and gifted us with our seven grandchildren.  Last year we entered a new stage of change when our oldest grandchild left home to serve in the Army–much sooner than we were ready for.  But we have been gratified to see the fruit of that change . . . the man that he is becoming.

Change can be difficult and even unwelcome.
But we have learned that when change comes (not if),
God is always–always(!)–good!

Change is in the air . . . .

Meaningful change has come to the Counseling Room.  I wasn’t looking for it, but there has been a noticeable shift of attitude in the majority of Clients seeking help:

  • When I became a Counselor more than two decades ago, Clients sought help dealing with their problems–period.

Clients back then were open to looking at the Bible, much the same way that we do today, but their focus (and probably my own) was mainly on resolving their problem(s).

In recent years, change having to do with the long-term goals of Clients, has made work in the Counseling Room gratifying.:

  • Where resolving problems was the emphasis in the past, the majority of Clients today are expressing a “desire to grow spiritually” as their primary goal of Counseling.  

This is how one Client expressed it recently:

“I’ve been in [secular] Counseling for 2 years and nothing much has changed.
I’ve ‘vented’ for countless hours and filled journals that need to be burned.
Now I’m realizing that nothing’s going to change,
apart from God changing me.
I want . . . no, I NEED to know God better!”*

What has caused this change? My thought is that as our times have become increasingly uncertain, and as what is “right” and what is“wrong” have become blurred within society, people are looking for clarity and with it, HOPE.  In essence, this shift has taken place because hearts are craving what Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:6,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.”

There is a palpable “hunger and thirst” being manifested in the Counseling Room, like I have never experienced before.  I have found that the only way to satisfy that longing, is to bring God’s Voice (manifested through the Scriptures) into every conversation that takes place..

But the change doesn’t stop there.  Clients are more committed to actively continuing that conversation with God by doing their Journey Notes.  (to the point of challenging me to re-enter into doing Journey Notes myself.)  Every time we meet, I count it a joy and privilege to watch their faces and to listen to what God has taught them since our previous Session.  Please don’t get me wrong, there are still the harsh realities in their lives that need to be faced and worked through.  But even so, HOPE continues to burn brightly as the Voice of the Shepherd ministers to both our hearts.

As I write this,  I marvel at the freshness of HOPE received as God’s Spirit ministers to hearts through words written more than two thousand years ago.  Consider the wisdom of the Apostle Paul who wrote:

“And HOPE does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still sinners,
Christ died for the ungodly.
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person . . .
but God demonstrates His own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:5, 7 & 8

How do you respond to change?  Do you give way to fear or get angry as you try to cling to what was? Or do you lean into God when change hits, determined to trust and embrace every lesson He has for you?

This week I discovered fresh insight into dealing with challenging times in Psalm 143, especially verses 5 and 6:

“I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.” 

At first glance we may perceive only a glimmer of light on the horizon of our lives. But as we remember God’s faithfulness to us in the past and we thirst expectantly for God to work out His best, we discover HOPE rising as it renews and floods our senses.

That promise of HOPE in God’s steadfast love continues in verses 8 and 12:

“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in You.
Show me the way I should go,
for to You I entrust my life . . . .
In Your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am Your servant.”

No matter what you are facing, no matter how dark things may appear, our God of HOPE will never abandon you.  Do you have a friend who needs help but feel as if your efforts are going nowhere?  Then I encourage you to bring God’s Voice into your conversation for the direction and HOPE found only in Him.

“May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13

All to His Glory!

*In no way do I mean to disparage the value of secular counseling–certainly there is a place for it in a hurting, fallen world.  However, the benefits of Biblical Counseling–learning to look at problems and ourselves from God’s perspective–is largely ignored and opportunities for personal growth never realized.

 

More Than Words: On Being Christ In An Angry World . . . .

Living in a world where anger comes increasingly easy and words are used as weapons rather than a means of blessing, can be frightening. It is tempting to get angry and play the child’s game of, “tit for tat”. But as followers of Christ, called to be in the world but not of the world, we are instructed to love and forgive in the mercy granted to us because of Christ..

Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I write this with Christ’s call to peace in mind:

“Peace I leave with you;
My peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.”

John 14:27

This week I gained insight into our penchant to hate when anger or fear take control   The wisdom of James, half-brother to Jesus, written over two thousand years ago, rings truth today::

“What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet
but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.
You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask,
you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,
that you may spend what you get on your pleasures..
You adulterous people, don’t you know that
friendship with the world means enmity against God?
Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world
becomes an enemy of God.”

James 4:1-4

Our word choices matter.
They reflect how we view ourselves,
how we relate to the world around us and, most importantly,
how we perceive God.

But God’s concern for His people is less about words
and more about attitude and action.
When hate comes easy, we distance ourselves from the One we are called to serve.

So how can we make things right?

Step One: Pray through the words of James and ask God to check the motives of your heart. Are you right with Him or are there areas that need to be confessed and made right?  Don’t put it off! Take care of it now and I guarantee your heart will feel a lot lighter.

Step Two: Ask God for the names of three people you would otherwise never pray for.  Jesus said we are to love and pray for our enemies. (Matthew 5:44) so start praying and be faithful to watch for miracles large and small.

Step Three: Take your focus off of yourself.  Ask God to show you how you can love the people in your life better as you choose to trust Him more.

In recent weeks I have been encouraged and found direction from the Apostles who faced every sort of difficulty we face–and much more. I invite you to consider the wisdom of Peter and Paul:

“Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another,
because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand,
that He may lift you up in due time.
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

I Peter 5: 5b-7

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,
not looking to your own interests but each of you
to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another,
have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be used to his own advantage . . . .”
Philippians 2:3-6

Humility is beautiful in God’s eyes, something we fail to see. Ask God to embrace humility as you determine to trust Him in every area of your life..

Do you yearn for authentic relationships? Then take your focus off yourself and look to being a blessing in the lives of others as Christ leads.

This is one I go to often:

Love must be sincere.
Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you;
bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice;
mourn with those who mourn.
Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be proud . . .
Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:9, 12-21

Looking for wisdom and direction in times such as these?  Look no further than the Scripture as you love others, not because they deserve it, but because it reflects Christ’s  love poured out on you.  Life is more than words . . . much, much more!

“For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord GOD will cause
righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations.”

Isaiah 61:11

All to His Glory!

On Valleys and Avoiding The Pit . . . .

“How was your week?”  It’s a question I often ask a Client as we begin a Session.  Responses vary of course, but one Client recently got me thinking when she said: “It’s been ups and downs, peaks and valleys . . . today I’m in a valley.”

Wanting to clarify what she was struggling with I asked, “What’s happening in your valley?”

She looked at me with pain-filled eyes as she talked about her husband’s deteriorating health and other changes that have taken place the past year and a half.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me;"
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me . . . .”

My response surprised even me as I said softly:  “Valleys aren’t all bad.  In fact, there are good things to be found in valleys: meadows . . . wildflowers . . . and God.  Valleys provide a quiet place to reflect on the challenges we face as well as on God’s Goodness.”  

I waited a moment before adding, “Valleys provide opportunities for spiritual and emotional growth when God is part of the conversation.  We get into trouble though, when we talk only to ourselves rather than God.”

She looked at me quizzically before I added, “You know, those self-absorbed conversations we have within ourselves–‘I should have said this’, or ‘I wish I’d done that.’  When we are angry with someone else or beat ourselves up because of our failures: light and hope are overshadowed by bitterness, anger and regret.  It is then, when we begin to doubt God’s Goodness, that the pit of depression can seem to swallow us up.”

We opened to the first four verses of Psalm 23 to gain a biblical perspective on valleys:

The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.”

Green pastures . . . still waters . . . soul restoration . . . clarity of mind and heart: ALL are ours when we stay close to the Shepherd of our hearts.  When shadows darken the terrain of our lives, He leads and enables us to walk (not run) through the scariest places as our Shield and Protector.

Isaiah says our problems multiply when we give way to fear.  It is then that we find ourselves in a pit of our own making:

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength.”
And you said, “No, we will flee on horses,”
Therefore you shall flee!
“And we will ride on swift horses,”
Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift.
One thousand will flee at the threat of one man;
You will flee at the threat of five,
Until you are left as a flag on a mountain top
And as a banner on a hill. 
(Verses 15-17)

Have you experienced that feeling of abandonment, when you look around and all you perceive is an impenetrable darkness?  Me too.  But don’t be fooled by your feelings; guard your heart against believing the worst of God.  Instead, consider the assuring words that follow the warning against being run by fear:

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him!” 
(Verse 18)

“BLESSED . . . ALL who wait for Him,” in the valleys of our lives as well as on the highest peak.

But what about those pit times, when depression and anxiety darken your door and faith is all but forgotten?  I appreciate the grittiness at the end of the Isaiah passage that speaks truth and assurance:

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a Voice behind you, saying,
“This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”  
(Verses 21-22)

Jesus identified Himself as the Good Shepherd and gave further food for thought in John 10:14-16,

“I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me–
just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father–
and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen . . . .
They too will listen to my voice and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

As we determine to stay close to the Good Shepherd in thanksgiving and in faith–
refusing to give way to the destructive self-talk that spirals into a self-made pit–
He will provide the shelter needed to withstand any storm.

PRAISE HIM!

All to His Glory!

A Journey Within A Journey . . . .

It was a dream come true for us–embarking on this journey to explore the places we never made it to in our previous travels.  We purchased a smallish camper with a comfortable bed and just enough amenities to make it work for us.  In four weeks, we’ve traveled through over 5,000 miles of diverse, often spellbinding beauty.  We’ve learned to laugh at ourselves and “Hilda” (our GPS) when a wrong turn is taken and she “recalculates” our next move.  Best of all, we have started to become adept at enjoying what I like to call, “The quiet of now . . . .”  In short, my husband and I have slowly been uncovering the sweet loveliness of growing old together.

DSC01485
We beheld the Creator over His creation . . . .

Then less than a week ago, we were hit hard by the news that Josh, a young man in our church, was killed in a motorcycle accident.  We ached with Josh’s family and friends as we remembered the shock of losing my husband’s younger brother 45 years ago.  Vern was 19. There were no skid marks made by his motorcycle at the scene–indicating Vern didn’t see the car that made the sharp U-turn from the curb as he rode down the street.   We still wonder, “What would Vern have done with his life, if the guy had made his turn even a minute later?”  There’s no making sense of such tragedy.

We learned about the accident when we were headed toward the mountain that looms above all else in the Seattle/Tacoma area–Mount Rainier.  We stopped by the side of the road to process the news–the physical distance between us and home felt like a chasm.  Yet, as we began to lift up Josh’s family and friends suffering the shocking pain of his loss, the distance all but vanished from our minds.

After entering the national park, we began our upward ascent.  We stopped at one of those information kiosks–you know, those places that orient the public to things to look for in the area.  We were stunned when we read: “Considered one of the most dangerous active volcanos in the world, Mount Rainier has been the source of numerous mudflows, covering large portions of the Puget Sound lowlands.”  As we looked around we realized that the trunks of huge trees, broken off like mere toothpicks, served as evidence of those “numerous mudflows.”  Though acutely aware of the fragility of life at that moment, we continued upward, entering what became for us, holy ground.  With every bend we climbed, God allowed us to look with awe at the dangerous yet breathtaking enormity of Mount Rainier.  When we drove as high as we could go, we could see the turquoise of several glaciers above us.  As hundreds of people milled around like ants on a hill, our smallness and the enormity of our Creator registered powerfully.  That was the beginning of our journey within a journey . . . .

Two days ago, my husband looked at me in confused disbelief after reading a text message–death had struck again. It was Heath, the son of our closest friends.  We considered Heath one of our own.  Thoughtful, funny, smart–outspoken when it came to his faith in Christ–Heath was a big guy with an even bigger heart.  It had been a thrill to join in the celebration, the day Heath married Amy (another one of our own.)  Our daughters were in their wedding.  Over the years God blessed them with two wonderful kids.  What a delight it has been to watch their children and our grandchildren become friends, enjoying the wonders of life together.  We never dreamt all that would be shattered . . . that Heath and Amy will not grow old together.

Comfort waits in the shelter of His Hands.
Comfort waits in the shelter of His Hands.

After receiving the horrible news, we found ourselves off-the-grid, camping in the redwoods of Del Norte Coast State Park in California.  God ministered to us there as  we were awed by the enormity of the trees.  We set up our camper quickly in our need to take advantage of the remaining daylight.  As we hiked, we were grateful to blend into the lush landscape of giant ferns and other forest greenery amongst the redwoods.  However, we soon noticed a troubling pattern that amplified our grief.  It seemed as if everywhere we turned there was a giant stump of an ancient redwood–obviously cut down in its prime.  Each stump was surrounded by a circle of good-sized redwoods that grew directly from the base of the giant–like a fairy ring of mushrooms paying homage to the one that had been cut down.  When we found one of the ancient giants on our trail, standing freely on its own–I fell against it gladly.  It was there that God’s comfort–bigger than the sky yet tender to my soul spoke,

“Be still and KNOW that I AM GOD.”
 
Psalm 46:10

Feeling worn to the bone as we returned to our campsite, we welcomed the clear direction of our loving Shepherd as we found rest in the shelter of His Provision.

There is more to share of our journey within a journey that I will write about in my next post.  Still shattered as sorrow-filled tears continue to well to up without notice, we have taken a break from our traveling.  It is tempting to wallow in despair over the tragic losses that will continue to be suffered for a long time to come.  Last evening, this reminder from I Peter helped to quiet my heart:

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold
that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers,
but with the precious blood of Christ . . . .
For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field,
the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.'”
I Peter 1:18, 19a, 24-25

How are we to get through the tragedy and heartache of life
that leaves us raging inwardly, yet feeling numb in our grief?  

It is not about what we do; it is about where we turn.

TO BE STILL BEFORE GOD: IS TO REMEMBER OUR HOPE OF HEAVEN,WON FOR US IN CHRIST JESUS.

(THE HOPE THAT IS NOW A REALITY FOR JOSH AND HEATH BY FAITH.)

TO KNOW GOD: IS TO HONOR HIM AS THE GREAT “I AM”–AS HE TENDERLY QUIETS OUR BROKEN HEARTS . . . LIKE NOTHING LESS CAN.

All to His Glory.

 

 

 

We Dare Not Turn Our Backs . . . .

After spending hours watching events unfold in the news and listening to the chatter of a myriad of opinions as to how to respond–it was after I finally turned off the television, that I experienced palpable relief from the tug-of-war going on in my mind and heart.  It was then, as the quietness settled within me, that a verse from James ran through my mind like a wafting banner:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault . . . .”

(James 1:5)

Ah, yes . . . PRAYER!  I was grateful for the reminder that the evil unfolding before us is not merely political or sociological.  It is part of an age-old spiritual battle.  The Apostle Paul gives clarity as to the stakes and the means whereby we must do battle:

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up
against the knowledge of God,
and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

II Corinthians 10:3-5

So what are Christians to do?  The best way to stay on course is to depend on the guidance of Scripture and God’s Spirit to provide the wisdom and strength we lack.  The following is a “game plan” that I have found helpful:

A Call To Prayer . . . To be quiet before God who already knows the end from the beginning.  As I bask in the quiet of God’s call, the weight in my heart is lifted as I pray for the displaced millions of men, women and children who, through no fault of their own, have no place to call home.  James 1:27 declares,

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

 Bottom line: WE DARE NOT TURN OUR BACKS ON OTHERS IN NEED.

Pray also for our political leaders, that God will convict their hearts as He ultimately works out His Plan through them.

A Call To Face Our Enemies . . . .   

  1. Some call it, “madness . . . sheer madness!”  Be it one individual shooting up a theater full of people or an organized group, it is a calculated, ugly, hate-filled assault on people–seemingly the more innocent the better.  After the killing is done, the descriptions reported by the survivors are similar as they describe the perpetrators as, “emotionless . . . robotic . . . appearing dead except for the merciless shooting.”  The problem is real, it is global and it is not any one group–an angry deadness of the soul.
  2. The second enemy may surprise you, but it must be faced to gain the wisdom we need to face enemy#1: FEAR fueled by what I call, “the court of public opinion.”  It is easy to get sucked into fear, for me it is a constant battle. When fear grips the heart, wisdom and faith are far removed. What keeps us steady is in knowing that FEAR is a ploy the devil uses to deter us.  Here’s what James wrote to Christians facing adversity 2,000 years ago:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Come near to God and He will come near to you.
Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

James 4: 7, 8 & 10

 A Call To Faith . . . I have said it to many a Client and learned it long ago:

To be overwhelmed by trials and uncertainty
is an opportunity to trust God more.

God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.
If we claim to have fellowship with Him
and yet walk in the darkness,
we lie and do not live out the truth.
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”

I John 1:5b-7

Over time I have learned to listen less to my fears as I  have determined to trust God with it all.  These words (also from James) have been a tremendous encouragement to me and to those I counsel facing hardship:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith
produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work
so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything.”

James 1:2-4

A Call to Action . . . REFUSE TO TURN YOUR BACK!

 1.  It is easy to hate the perpetrators of evil, but when hating comes easy we are in danger of becoming like them.  Take seriously Jesus command in Matthew 5:43:45:

“You have heard that it was said,
‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:43-45

God knows the heart of everyone.  Pray for the individuals caught up in this evil; that the attitudes and actions of Christians being held will touch the hearts of their captors.  Pray also that fleeing Christians will reflect the love of Christ to those who are also fleeing but do not know Him.

2.  Start looking for ways to help.  If your church has organized a means of reaching out in big and small ways, then by all means support that.  (Last year my church found a way to support Iraqi Christians by sending dental supplies {tooth brushes, toothpaste, etc} through a friend with contacts there.  It was such a small thing but I know it was an encouragement to those who could give as well as those receiving those small gifts.)

There are numerous charities working to help in this global crisis.  The following are some of my favorites:

Samaritan’s Purse
http://www.samaritanspurse.org

Mission to the World
https://www.mtw.org/disaster-response

Open Doors, USA
https://www.opendoorsusa.org/donate/

Voice of the Martyrs
http://www.persecution.com

3.  Watch the news following the stories of those caught up in this crisis and begin to pray for those who touch your heart.  There are several bloggers doing excellent work to help with this.  This post, by Humans of New York, is a good place to start: https://medium.com/@humansofnewyork/humans-of-new-york-refugee-stories-243336f4adeb#.ywdau2x1t

In good times and in bad, God calls us to prayer and to action as we live out our faith.
These are scary times to be sure, but they are potentially growing times
as we entrust ourselves to the One who Saves.  

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea . . . .
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts.”
Psalm 46:1-6

All to His Glory!

Image Source: Google Images

To Move Beyond Brokenness . . . .

We had worked together for months in the Counseling Room.  Many tears were shed along the way, but new vistas gained as spiritual insights helped to steady her course.  Then one day she walked into my office the color of ash.   I could see the hurt and anger in her countenance as tears brimmed full.  What do you do when faced with shattered dreams and the light of hope has suddenly been snuffed out?  Be they your own broken dreams or someone else’s, the need is the same: a listening ear, that human connectedness of a hug or embrace, along with the words, “I’m sorry . . . .” 

It is often said that, “Time heals all wounds.”  While that may be true in part, it certainly is not true when it comes to ministering to the broken heart.  Just as a broken bone needs to be set aright, wisdom and intentional care are needed to straighten and strengthen the broken mind and heart.  In the Counseling Room I have ministered to many people crippled emotionally and spiritually by the still raw evidence of wounds left untended for years . . . even decades.  I know of no better resource than the wisdom contained in the Scriptures that, when rightly applied, can open up light and hope like nothing else.

Hebrews 3:13 warns believers, to guard against letting the hardness of sin and doubt to fester in our hearts for even one more day:

“Above all else, guard your heart . . . .” Proverbs 4:23

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,”
so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

True encouragement seeks not merely to placate or build up the ego; authentic encouragement speaks to straighten and strengthen what has been broken.  

In my last post, I wrote about the Heartstrings Illustrationa very practical tool that helps identify the primary influence(s) we rely on to make decisions.  As I watched and listened to my Client, I understood the pain she was in . . . but I also understood the danger of beginning to doubt the only One we can truly trust.  To help stop the emotional and spiritual “bleeding” of a heart so broken and raw, she needed the wisdom of Scripture to help her assess who or what influence was tugging at her heartstrings. 

We went to John 21–one of those special places in Scripture that I enjoy because it is so personal.  It begins very early in the morning, with Peter and a few of the other disciples returning from a disappointing night of fishing. I asked her to begin reading the passage to me–I ask all of my Clients to read aloud to me so that was nothing new.  As she read about how Jesus was waiting on the shore and the events that took place, her voice returned to a more regular tone.  Occasionally, she stopped reading as we marveled at how simply, but powerfully Jesus ministered to the hearts of those men–by providing a miraculous catch of fish while already having prepared a meal that was waiting for them on the beach.  We were touched, when Jesus took a walk with Peter (the disciple who denied knowing Jesus three times after He was arrested.) In the conversation that took place between them, Jesus challenged and commissioned Peter to, “Feed My sheep.”

The part that I hoped would most encourage and challenge my Client came in the final section when Jesus said:

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger
you dressed yourself and went where you wanted;
but when you are old you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”

The text goes on to explain:

Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death
by which Peter would glorify God.
Then He said to him, “Follow me!”

(verses 18 and 19)

Stunned by what Jesus said (in my mind I picture Peter blubbering to himself and extremely uncomfortable), Peter looked around and saw another disciple, John, was near to them.  Peter asked Jesus the question many of us ask in such situations, “What about him?” Jesus’ response, simple and direct, serves as a needful reminder as to who is God, and who is decidedly NOT God:

“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?
You must follow Me.”

(Verse 22)

The room was quiet as we reflected on the text. It was then that I recognized a melding of wisdom and hope as color returned to her cheeks. Using the Heartstring Illustration to gain insight into what had just happened, she said,

“When I walked in here I was totally fixated on the pain of my situation–I had lost all hope.
In fact, I was angry at God for allowing my life to fall apart.
After reading Jesus’ answer to Peter, I was struck by my foolishness.
I knew immediately how off-course I truly was.
Nothing has changed . . . I still have no idea of the direction my life is going to take.
Even so, I am at peace–with God back in His rightful place in my heart.”

Time does not heal all wounds.   But as we entrust ourselves to God (refusing the temptation to doubt in His Goodness), and rely on the Scriptures and His Spirit to help us, we discover the wondrous grace of His Peace.  To move beyond brokenness is not something we can ever attain in our own strength, it is only possible as we rely on Him as our Resting Place.

All to His Glory!